On weekends, the curious gather at the base of Kagel Mountain in Sylmar to watch the hang gliders soar and land. Newcomers are known to squint in disbelief as they notice that one of the gliders is occupied by a man and his dog.
Five-year-old German shepherd Baubi has been flying since he was a year old with his owner, 55-year-old German immigrant Ludwig von der Luhe, who has been flying for eight years.
"He always made such a funny commotion when I landed that I thought maybe he wanted to fly too," von der Luhe recalls. "So I had a special harness made for him and hung him up in a tree and wiggled him around some. He seemed to enjoy that and the next day I took him up in the hang glider."
Off they went. The dog was a perfect passenger and took to hang gliding like a duck takes to water. "He looks at the scenery from the sky just as I do, and he enjoys it just as well," von der Luhe says.
They fly every weekend and stay airborne for about two hours each flight. Although they have separate harnesses, Baubi spends most of his time hanging above his master in piggyback style. When von der Luhe packs up the glider to return home, Baubi makes a fuss.
"He tries to push my hands away to keep me from packing up the glider. He always wants to fly more," von der Luhe says.
In the Spotlight
When actress Kim Basinger ("Batman") was featured in Vanity Fair's June issue, a small eatery in Tarzana reaped some unexpected benefits. Father Nature's Cafe on Ventura Boulevard was mentioned not only in the article's lead sentence, but also four more times in the story.
"They did the interview for the article here," says owner Salpy Sossikian. "I knew we were going to be in the article because they called from New York to find out about our iced tea that Kim likes. But I didn't know we were going to be such a big hit." She adds, "We've seen 70% new faces."
The iced tea "that Kim likes" is spiced with oranges and cinnamon. The menu includes Middle Eastern salads, chicken shawerma and tuna.
Sossikian has received a few phone calls from the star's fans, including one from a man in Canada who wanted his number passed along to Basinger. (Sossikian passed it along but doesn't know if Kim ever called.)
"She is such a beautiful lady," Sossikian says.
We're sure that Bruce Wayne would agree.
Keep That Door Down
You hear tales every day about houses being burglarized. What you don't often hear about are garage burglaries.
"I'm positive there are people who have had stuff stolen out of their garages, and they don't even know about it," says Sgt. Gary Merrifield of the Los Angeles Police Department. "Maybe it's a hand tool or a power tool that they seldom use, but when they go to find it eventually, it's gone."
The crime happens easily enough, Merrifield says. "People have a tendency to leave their garage door open during the day. Maybe they run to the store to pick up some milk, for example. It's easy for someone to just walk in and steal a lawn mower or a bike.
"I would like people to inventory what they keep in their garage on a dollar value," he says, adding that most of us would be surprised at how much we have stored there.
Last fall, after a particularly stressful day of developing game show ideas for Columbia Pictures Television, Alex Carswell shattered a picture frame on his desktop and felt satisfied. But the relief was only temporary. So two weeks later he left his job and joined with a partner to start a company called Novel Ideas, based in Studio City.
Their first product is finding its way into stores nationwide, including L.A. Wild Life in Studio City. Christened the Stressball, it makes a noise similar to breaking glass when you throw, drop or kick it.
Retailing for $19.95, Stressball runs on a 9-volt battery and comes with a small pedestal and a comic target poster. "However, you may want to pin a picture of your boss on the wall," Carswell notes.
The heat is on, as your garden knows. One way to keep your water bill down, suggests landscape architect Richard Yanez of Edward Hume & Associates in Northridge, is to establish "precipitation zones" in your yard.
"You group together plants with similar water requirements," Yanez explains.
For example, plants that have to be watered frequently--azaleas, camellias, most annuals--could be in one spot, while plants that need to be watered weekly--day lilies, agapanthuses and statice--could be in another section. That way you don't have to constantly water the whole yard.
And maybe you won't have to be picked up off the floor when the water bill comes.
Overheard At . . .
"Drivers in L.A. think it's a moral imperative to get one car ahead of you on the freeway." --Customer overheard in Denny's restaurant in Sylmar.